XPBB-1 Sea Ranger

XPBB-1 Sea Ranger patrol bomber in flight

The Boeing XPBB-1 Sea Ranger, or the Model 344, built for the U.S. Navy, was an extremely long-range flying boat patrol bomber. It was the largest twin-engine airplane built until the time of its first flight in 1942. It used a wing very similar to the four-engine B-29 bomber and incorporated aerodynamic features of the Boeing Model 314 Clipper.

The Navy ordered 57 Sea Rangers to be manufactured at a new plant on 95 acres on the south shore of Lake Washington in Renton, Wash. The waterfront site provided natural protection from prevailing winds, so it was easier to launch seaplanes directly from the plant.

The Sea Rangers were designed for a "boosted takeoff" by being catapulted from huge barges. Although the normal range of the aircraft was 4,245 miles, designers believed this distance could double if fuel was saved by the catapulted takeoff.

However, even before the first Sea Ranger was finished, it was surrounded by rows of B-29 bombers because the U.S. military changed its strategy in favor of land-based bombers after the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942, when American bombers destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers.

Only one Sea Ranger was built and nicknamed the "Lone Ranger." The Boeing 25-year tradition of building seaplanes came to an end when the "Lone Ranger" flew out of Renton for the last time on Oct. 25, 1943, heading for the Navy base in San Diego, Calif. The one-of-a-kind seaplane served the Navy in a variety of ways for several years before it was placed in storage at the Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia.

The Navy traded the Renton site with the U.S. Army for a plant in Kansas City, Mo., and the Army took over the Renton plant, where Boeing workers subsequently produced 1,119 B-29 bombers. After the war, the plant eventually became a manufacturing facility for Boeing commercial jet transports.

First flight: July 9, 1942
Model number: 344
Classification: Long-range patrol bomber
Span: 139 feet 8 inches
Length: 94 feet 9 inches
Gross weight: 62,006 pounds
Top speed: 219 mph
Cruising speed: 158 mph
Range: 4,245 miles
Ceiling: 18,900 feet
Power: Two 2,000-horsepower Wright Double Cyclone engines
Accommodation: 10 crew
Armament: Four machine guns, 20,000-pound bomb load